Bake sale misjudges Affirmative Action
Generally speaking, bake sales are the most innocuous of campus events. We leave the divisive politics for rallies, marches and sit-ins, because, as far as issues go, cupcakes are pretty cut and dry. But they say there’s a first time for everything, so maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that someone finally found a way to marry cookies and controversy. In an effort to protest California Senate Bills 185 and 387, which lean heavily in the direction of Affirmative Action, the U.C. Berkeley College Republicans are planning to hold an Increase Diversity Bake Sale. The bake sale is supposed to demonstrate what the College Republicans see as the absurdity of Affirmative Action by operating on a sliding price scale, which changes according to the gender, race, and ethnicity of the buyer. For example, a white man will pay $2 for an item, whereas a black man would pay 75 cents, and so on. Unfortunately for the College Republicans, this bake sale plan does not bolster their argument against Affirmative Action. All it actually does is highlight some critical failures in their understanding of what Affirmative Action seeks to accomplish.
One of the most common criticisms raised of Affirmative Action by its opponents is that it is a system whereby unqualified applicants receive employment, admission or some other benefit simply because they are minorities or women. The extension of this narrative is that qualified white men everywhere are losing out on the opportunities they deserve. The deck is supposedly stacked against them. It’s clear from the Increase Diversity Bake Sale that the U.C. Berkeley College Republicans subscribe to this belief.
However, this picture of Affirmative Action is highly inaccurate. Affirmative Action is not some sort of ideological Robin Hood, stealing opportunities from white men and giving them out to everyone else. Instead, it creates opportunities for traditionally oppressed or underrepresented groups. It’s a means by which the playing field is leveled, not shifted in the opposite direction. Also, Affirmative Action does not open the door for unqualified candidates: No matter the gender, race or ethnicity of a person, they still need to be qualified for whatever position or program to which they are applying.
The picture that people like the U.C. Berkeley College Republicans paint of Affirmative Action is purely alarmist, grounded in hysterical myth and, sometimes, blatant racism. We don’t know if the organizers of the bake sale in question were trying actively to be racist, but the fact remains that they certainly come off that way.